India seems to be in the midst of a competition to hoist the biggest and the tallest national flag. As they say, some people wear their heart on their sleeves; we seem to be showing off our patriotism on our flags. The taller and the bigger it is the better it would seem to be.
One does not know how and who started off this fad of having tall flagstaffs to hoist flags the dimensions of which keep increasing by the day. The other day, the flag hoisted near the Attari border with Pakistan created a stir. Mounted on a 360 ft. tall staff, claimed to be the tallest of all flagstaffs in the country, it flies the heaviest ever national flag (55 tons). Its dimensions are 120x80 ft and it has cost the Punjab Government Rs. 3.5 Crore (billion). The annual maintenance contract for it has had to be awarded to a private company as, apparently, the Amritsar Improvement Trust, the institution that installed it, does not have any outfit that could possibly take care of it. So close to the border it is that the flag is claimed to be visible from the Anarkali Bazar of Lahore in Pakistan.
Its enormous height and size have brought in controversies in the wake of its unfurlment at Attari. Pakistani Rangers guarding the borders with India have alleged that such a tall flag has been installed only for espionage purposes. They think it would be used to peep across the borders from this side to pry on the goings-on there. They said that the flag at the top has powerful cameras to monitor activities in Pakistan. One is surprised to hear such a stupid argument. India didn’t have to have a tall flag to mount surveillance over and across the borders as hundreds of air force and civilian planes, leave alone satellites, fly at greater heights in the area everyday. These could do a better job and very easily at that. Nonetheless, authorities in India did convey to the Pakistanis that there was no camera on top of the pole; there was only a light - a regulation light that had to be mounted there.
But then this is only one of these tall flags. The second highest is somewhere in Ranchi – the capital of Jharkhand. The flag pole is 283 ft. high. Several states seem to have jumped on to the bandwagon to install tall flags – in what looks like competitive patriotism. Hyderabad, Pune, Faridabad, Raipur and so on all have flags flying at a height that is above 200 ft. Closer home, Bhopal too tried its hand at installing, once again, an under 300 ft. tall flag. It swayed violently in the rather strong breeze and soon got torn. I remember it having been replaced at least once. But for months now it is no longer visible anywhere. Probably the project has been given up as a bad job even though quite a tidy sum was spent on it from the public exchequer
One wonders who in these governments were trying to prove their patriotism. Enormous amounts of money have been wasted tn this what seems to be futile exercise. Patriotic fervor cannot be measured by the size of the flag and the height at which it is flown. The flags of smaller sizes flown at lower heights, for example at Rashtrpati Bhawan, are no less patriotic. Besides, there is a Flag Code as modified in 2002 that needs to be observed. According to it, the biggest size for the flag could be 6300mms x 4200mms. I have not come across any amendment that allows flying flags exceeding these dimensions.
With the proliferation of the outsized flags one wonders whether the extant Flag Code is being violated. If that is so the authorities should cry a halt to the frivolity being displayed in respect of the National Flag that symbolically represents our values and aspirations.